It was an emotional day for former Sleaford Town FC manager Kris Jones as he was applauded onto the home pitch for a benefit match in his honour after spending 11 months in hospital as a result of a horrific car crash.
Kris was critically ill after the crash on the A1 near Cromwell, Nottinghamshire, last August and was flown to Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham where he was treated for a week before spending the rest of the time at Lincoln County Hospital.
The friendly fixture kicked off at Sleaford’s Eslaforde Park yesterday (Saturday) afternoon and was accompanied by a raffle, tombola, stalls, bouncy castle, giant tortoises and refreshments to raise money for the ex-Sleaford Town manager and his family to use in whatever way is needed.
Kris was wheeled out onto the pitch by his father Chris and former Town manager Brian Rowland, flanked by a guard of honour of the two teams to a round of applause. His wife Rachel and three children were there too, Rhys, 12, who played on the day for his dad’s team, Abbie, 8, and Owen, 6.
He had returned home from hospital on Tuesday, just in time to see the match between a team made up of people who have played with him at some stage in his career, selected by Kris and Brian Rowland, and a United Counties League young select team chosen and managed for the day by Darren Munton and Graham Drury.
The event, which saw around 400 people turn up to show support, was the brainchild of Sleaford Town’s reserve team manager Stephen Garfoot, who jokingly said he couldn’t understand why Kris hadn’t picked him for the team, despite giving him every opportunity over the months.
It was extremely emotional when he came out onto the pitch, I don’t think there were many dry eyesStephen Garfoot - Sleaford Town Reserves manager
The game finished 2-2. Goalscorers for Kris’s team were the club’s all-time leading goal scorer Jamie Shaw and Barry Massey, while Ollie Pinner (penalty) and Adam Jackson scored for the UCL side.
Stephen said: “The town has come out and supported him really well. It was extremely emotional when he came out onto the pitch, I don’t think there were many dry eyes.”
Fellow organiser Hilary Jones said Kris was “very taken by the amount of people that came out and supported him”.
Stephen thanked Sue Jones and Donna Rowland who did a massive amount to help organise the fun day and everyone else who helped surrounding the event too.
Hilary said: “Kris is doing really well and achieving more than expectations. He was told if he survived he would never leave hospital, it was that bad. Now he is walking around at home with a frame, he is feeding himself, he is talking and everyone who visits him he remembers them, his memory is fine.”
Stephen added: “He is still Jonesy, he will sit and take the Mick out of you.”
He hoped to get Kris down to the ground on a regular basis, saying: “He helped me start with the reserves and I think he really enjoyed being sat in that dug out again.
“A massive thank you to all who came down for the day, I’m sure Kris appreciates it.”